Chief Executive Officer

The role of all top executives is to identify the goals and objectives of an organization, and then to devise and implement strategies that will ensure the organization meets those goals and objectives. Chief executives operate either in government or in the private sector. In the private sector, chief executive officers, along with other top executives and a board of directors, establish the goals and objectives of a corporation. They delegate responsibility to subordinates and then meet with those subordinates frequently to evaluate progress. Chief executive officers report to the board of directors, which is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the corporation. In government, chief executive officers work with legislators to set goals and implement plans to attain those goals. They appoint department managers, who direct the programs enacted by legislative bodies. They converse with legislators and the public, nominate citizens to boards and commissions, and promote private sector investment.

Job Skills

Chief executive officers must have well-developed, above-average interpersonal skills. They must be excellent communicators. They also need to be capable of analyzing large amounts of data and the interrelationships between multiple factors. In addition, they must also have leadership skills, self-confidence, motivation, decisiveness, flexibility, sound business judgment, and determination.


In 2002, chief executive officers earned a median annual salary of $126,260. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of chief executive officers:

  • Management of companies and enterprises – $145,600
  • Architectural, engineering, and related services – 133,880
  • Depository credit intermediation – 123,220
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools – 103,120
  • Local government – 73,990

Training and Education

The backgrounds of chief executive officers, such as their education and experience, vary greatly. Many have a bachelor’s degree or higher in business administration or liberal arts. Often, they possess education and experience related to the specific industry in which they work. In the public sector, chief executive officers may have a degree in public administration or liberal arts, or they may have a background that relates directly to their specific sector. Some chief executive officers rise to their position by being promoted through middle- and upper-management positions in their organization, while others with specialized backgrounds are hired from other organizations.


In 2002, chief executive officers held about 553,000 jobs. 80% were employed by service-providing industries, including government.

Job Outlook

Between 2002 and 2012, the number of chief executive officers is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Although automation and corporate restructuring will slow down growth for lower-level managers, chief executive officers will remain somewhat immune to this, due to their crucial role in an organization’s success. Professional, scientific, and technical services and administrative and support services will experience faster than average growth, while manufacturing should experience a decline.

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